People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 08

February 21, 2010

Bank Employees Federation Holds Women�s Convention


S V Venugopalan


ON January 31, the Indian Bank Employees Federation (IBEF), affiliated to the Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) organised its first all-India convention of women employees working in various branches of the Indian Bank, a public sector concern. Having successfully taken place at Chennai, the convention also formed a women�s subcommittee to organise the work among the Indian Bank�s female employees.

Lady employees of the Indian Bank from different parts of the country, numbering about 100, made their way to the capital city of Tamilnadu with all enthusiasm to meet in this all-India forum and share their feelings, experiences and expectations, and returned from there with renewed determination. The day long proceedings of the convention commenced at around 10 30 a m, with IBEF Central Committee member Santhilatha Majumdar hoisting the BEFI�s red flag amid inspiring slogans. Then followed floral tributes to late Comrade Naresh Pal, a legendary leader of bank employees movement, at the venue named after him.

IBEF president K Krishnan presided over the convention. He urged for all round involvement of women employees in the trade union movement and impressed upon the women employees to meet the challenges in the workplace boldy. G Gopal, deputy general secretary of the federation, made a short introductory speech and welcomed the gathering.

Girija, joint secretary of the South Zone Insurance Employees Association (affiliated to the fraternal All India Insurance Employees Association) delivered a special address on the overt and covert manifestations of the second rate treatment women are receiving in society and the role of progressive movements in fighting for gender equality and gender justice.

Quoting in detail from the visual advertisements, television programmes and the general media depictions, Girija brought out the common preference for male child and differential treatment meted out to the girl children in our society. She wondered what is the rationale that only a son could take on with the legacy of the family name, which is cited for favoured choice for a male child, and stated that a daughter could carry on with the family name equally well. A girl is brought up with care and concern to evolve her as a suitable daughter-in-law in future whereas a boy�s upbringing has no such special conditional ties.

Girija lambasted the media�s slander against working women and called for instant and spontaneous protests against such writings in journals. Pointing to the more severe impact of the neo-liberal policies and financial crisis on women, she appealed to the delegates to study and follow the socio-political and economic developments.

Explaining the gradual improvements made by women in the LIC employees movement over a period of time under the leadership of All India Insurance Employees Association, she said she felt proud that a good number of women hold key positions in its branch units as president, secretary and treasurer. The Bengaluru division�s general secretary happens to be a woman right now. The AIIEA�s frontline women activists function as office bearers of the district units of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) in some places and head the district units of All India Working Women Coordination Committee, too, in some parts of the country.

Tamilnadu BEFI president T Tamilarasu was among those who greeted the convention. A sizeable number of women from other banks in Chennai and leaders of different affiliates of the BEFI Tamilnadu were present at the convention.

IBEF vice president Suseela Ramachandran presented the report that, inter alia, dealt with the general conditions of working women. It dwelt upon the Supreme Court�s guidelines of August 1997, in the famous Visakha case, about tackling the issue of sexual harassment in workplaces. Other issues taken up included the problems faced by bank women in general in respect of transfer policy, lack of basic amenities in the branches, and the successful struggle being waged by IBEF in defending the rights of employees with specific reference to those of women employees. 

Resuming the discussion after the lunch break, delegates from Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamilnadu enthusiastically deliberated on the report. Speaking in English, Bengali, Hindi and Tamil, the lady comrades demanded that the leadership pay attention to the unscientific transfer policy implemented in the bank in a crude way, increasing work load in branches as against the acute shortage of manpower, pressure at branches, etc.

There was concern about the surrenderist policy of the government at the centre before the dictates of US imperialism. Women representatives expressed their anger against the spiralling price rise and cautioned against the ugly face of communal elements.

Suseela Ramachandran summed up the deliberations and called upon the delegates to mobilise an even more number of women for future conventions. The convention unanimously adopted resolutions on price rice, unorganised sector workers, 33 per cent reservation for women in the parliament and state legislatures, and on issues facing the women employees.           

At its conclusion, the convention formed an eleven member women�s subcommittee at the national level, with Suseela Ramachandran and Com Santhilatha Majumdar as joint convenors and Sreelatha (Andhra Pradesh), Thabitha (Kerala), Usha Mali (Chhattisgarh), Priyadarshini, Adeshi Gupta, Tapith Chatterrjee (West Bengal), Lakshmi G Rajan, V Umadevi and G Nalini (Tamilnadu) as members.

The special convention�s cultural orientation was made richer by the group singing of Bengali songs by West Bengal comrades, followed by an enlivening deliverance of Subodh Sarkar�s powerful poem �I, Firoza, am an Indian girl� by Sujatha Pal. The latter is a key functionary of the teachers movement in Durgapur district. Her husband and West Bengal unit�s vice president, Madhusudan Pal, was also present on the occasion and sang a song at the end.  It was then left to a senior comrade, Vasanthavalli of Tamilnadu, to render an emotionally moving song by the nationalist poet Subramaniya Bharathi. 

Members of the celebrated Bank Employees Art Troupe (BEAT) of Tamilnadu presented three songs, including one in Bengali. With this, the first all-India convention of women employees in the Indian Bank came to an end, with inspiring and reverberating slogans to high hold the banner of struggle for social emancipation of women.

(S V Venugopalan is secretary of the Indian Bank Employees Federation.)